By Megan Rawlings
“Tell me about yourself.”
There was a long, long pause.
“Well,” she finally said, “I’m a 2.”
“A 2?” I asked.
“Yeah, on the Enneagram. It’s this test that tells you who you are and so much about yourself . . .”
This conversation and others like it spurred me on to contemplate the emotional and mental state of young adults in our country. Although I cannot speak for the masses, in my experience, millennials (those born 1981–1998) and Generation Z (born 1999–2015) are longing to find their identity and purpose. There appears to be a chasm of emptiness which these generations (of which I am a part) are trying to fill in any way that is accessible and available.
Here are several ways I’ve seen and experienced for how people try to discover their identities.
The Enneagram and Other Self-Assessments
The Enneagram the woman talked about is another personality test in the crowded field of self-assessments. I was fascinated, intrigued, and wary.
Fascinated because a woman I had just met was openly sharing the results of a personality test she had used for self-defining purposes. I was interested in why she felt she needed to use assessment data to “find herself” as opposed to relying on her own instincts and merit.
Intrigued because in front of me was a 30-year-old woman who had boiled down her identity into a number. The number 2. She seemed to believe this number, derived from the Enneagram, gave credence and value to her character. It provided her with a sense of self-worth. She could have answered my question by telling me about her passions, gifts, and flaws, but instead she shared a number based on a personality assessment.
Wary, because I questioned the science behind this test. (In fact, I now consider it absurd.) The test results are very often taken as truth by those who participate in the assessment. The Enneagram, which at the time was unfamiliar to me, led people to question, “What is my number? What does this mean for me?” How the test came to be so highly reputable, and why and how so many identify with it, is almost unnerving to me.
This fascination with the Enneagram reminds me of what I see as the problem with social media, where our lives are in constant states of comparison with everyone else on our platforms. It has been said the overuse of social media has led to a dramatic increase of depression and anxiety among young people. If you haven’t watched the documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix, do it right now (it’s an eye-opener).
The New Calvinism and Other Present-Day Movements
I think this longing that people, especially young adults, have to find their identity and purpose is why movements such as Young, Restless, and Reformed—which promotes a move toward reformed theology and is sometimes called the “New Calvinism”—are growing in leaps and bounds in our secular age. These movements have very clear-cut sets of beliefs—and even a sense of security. There is a culture to them . . . an identity.
A Better Way
In saying these things, my goal is not to criticize and degrade those trying to find out who they are. Nor am I arguing that I am somehow superior. Truthfully, I have struggled with the issues I’ve mentioned. I love a good personality test. For the record, I am an ENFJ, connector, 3, otter, influencer. Name the test, and I have probably taken it. I love to know what makes me tick and how to better interact with other personalities. I am also known to refresh social media to see the likes go up as if my life depended on the outcome. But when we become wrapped up in descriptors and artificial forms of validation, something is missing.
Here’s the thing. Despite the tests, the numbers, the likes, the “insert thing that tells me who I am” that we use so often to define ourselves, these evaluations are incomplete. The problem ultimately is not the method or the outcome of these assessments. It’s much simpler than that. We all must recognize and remember that our true identity comes from Christ. That’s the only identity we need . . . the identity of Christ.